A seaplane trip to Sydney will cost about $300 each way, according to the owner and managing director of Sydney Seaplanes, which is seeking to run the Lake Burley Griffin service.
Aaron Shaw said he hoped to launch the one-hour service between Canberra and Rose Bay next spring, but at present the focus was on ticking the regulatory and technical boxes.
A demonstration flight will splash down on the lake to the west of the National Museum of Australia on Tuesday, and the National Capital Authority will likely open community consultation about the service in the new year.
Mr Shaw said the proposed Canberra connection was part of the company’s longer-term plans to extend transport services to coastal destinations north and south of Sydney. He foresaw Canberra passengers being able to hub through Rose Bay to destinations such as Newcastle.
The company has returned to its Lake Burley Griffin plans after first floating the idea in 2007 but Mr Shaw believes there is a greater chance of success now.
”We’ve got a more forward-thinking and vibrant [NCA] board there now,” he said.
Mr Shaw approached the NCA in January and despite a difficult year for aviation, he believes there is a market for a faster more direct service into the centre of both cities.
Driving the idea was the prominent role of seaplanes in places such as Vancouver, Seattle, New York and Miami, cities where seaplanes are used primarily for transport services, more than for tourism or leisure.
”It was really noting the opportunity to leverage our Sydney Harbour-based airport, so people can get right in and close to the centre of Sydney, and the convenience that offers to travellers is huge compared to the hassle and crowds of a normal traditional airport,” he said.
Mr Shaw said 11 million people a year travel between Sydney and Canberra, and nine million of those were in cars.
”We believe a one hour service between the centres of both cities will entice a number of those people from their cars to a genuinely fast convenient aviation service,” he said.
But Canberra Airport also plays a role in the proposal, as the amphibious planes carry landing gear in their floats and can land on tarmac as well.
Sydney Seaplanes plans to keep a plane at the Airport, and there would also be services from there to Rose Bay and back, as well as the Lake flights.
If the weather is bad or conditions on the Lake are unsuitable, the seaplanes can divert to the Airport.
Mr Shaw said the company may also offer more services to Canberra Airport from Rose Bay to minimise effects on the Lake.
He said the only infrastructure needed for the Lake would be a floating platform or pontoon attached to a dock.
There are docks on both sides of the Museum, which Mr Shaw says is very supportive of the idea.
A fuel trailer from the Airport would meet the plane and return there after refuelling.
Mr Shaw said the planes would have a minimal impact on the Lake, spending only five minutes per flight there, and observing maritime rules to give way to non-powered craft.
The company would be in communication with other lake users such as yacht or rowing clubs to be aware of events or significant traffic on the Lake.
Mr Shaw said it had coexisted comfortably for years with other water users in the busiest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere.
The company would be looking to forge tourism ties with the national institutions.
”What we do very well is packaged tours and products,” Mr Shaw said, ”and we want to be partnering with those national institutions and offering packages to Sydney market. Things like that that have huge popular appeal to the Sydney market.”
He said the service would not just be for the rich and famous or be unattainable, but something everyone could benefit from.
The proposal is likely to meet opposition from those worried about environmental damage such as fuel spills and heritage impacts, but Mr Shaw hoped they would also weigh up the benefits of being within an hour of Sydney Harbour and what the service could bring to Canberra.